Days 28 & 29 – 30 Day Dress Challenge 2014

2 days, 2 dresses!

Day 28:

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The Dress: A repeat from Day 8, this is my Joe Fresh dress again. This time I added a belt, just for a change. I like the way it likes fine both ways but I definitely like wearing it without a belt better. You know, comfort.

And since it was unreasonably cold on Saturday, I actually spent most of the day looking like this:

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With a sweater on. This button-up was purchased at H&M several years ago when I was on my way somewhere in downtown Vancouver and got cold. It had a tie around the waist which I promptly detached and threw out because I don’t need my sweaters to tie around my waist, thanks. It’s pretty close to being a wear-around-the-house-only sweater though since it’s developing some holes in a couple of spots. But it kept me warm yesterday.

Day 29:

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Again, unreasonably cold for the end of June so I am wearing a sweater and boots. Worse yet, I also put on a jacket and a scarf (a scarf!) when we were outside this morning.

Here’s the same dress in last year’s 30 Day Challenge, on a warmer day:

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The Dress: I purchased this Moon dress at The Bay about three years ago. It’s a nice spring/fall work dress. I have yet to find a pair of tights I like with it though so it doesn’t get much wear in the colder months. My white sweater is from Banana Republic but was thrifted in Mission (or maybe Chilliwack?). And it’s cashmere! So soft!

And, just for fun, this photo which makes me look seven feet tall. Peter’s getting creative in his photo angles.

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Day 27 – 30 Day Dress Challenge 2014

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Today is one of those days on the West Coast when people make corny jokes like, “Summer’s over. Hope you enjoyed all 2 days of it!” Don’t worry – I make them too. It was either grey or raining all day which ruined my sandal plan. I’m getting a lot more wear out of my boots than I expected this month.

The Dress: H&M three summers ago. It came with a sparkly white belt which I seem to have lost somewhere along the way so I added a different one. My cardigan was from Winners last year. My necklace was a gift for my last birthday and was made locally here on the Coast.

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Looking woefully at the high tide creeping over the beach that I cleared of sea weed yesterday. Darn.

Book Review – The World by Bill Gaston

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Disclaimer: I’ve met Bill Gaston in real life and because he’s a super nice person, it likely colours my review. That said, he is an award-winning Canadian writer so I’m not the only one being nice to him. After all that, I don’t feel bad saying that I generally prefer his short stories to his novels and I’ve read several of each. Gaston’s short stories pack a powerful punch and sometimes I find that impact gets lost through the course of his novels.

For the first third of The World (Penguin Books, 2012) I thought the same about this one. We meet Stuart Price, a youngish retiree, who just paid off his mortgage, a few years on from his divorce. The next day, he inadvertently burns down his house. Now, I am not the most organized or safety-conscious person but I do pay my bills on time and I always double-check that a fire is out. So Stuart Price gave me major anxiety. I felt tense reading about him because even though he wasn’t making the worst decisions, he wasn’t making great ones either and things just kept getting worse for him. At one point, Stuart opts to get laser eye surgery – somewhat on a whim – and I was convinced that he was about to be blinded. This is a guy who seems unable to catch a break.

After losing everything, Stuart starts driving west, deciding to visit his friend Mel. While they were close friends once, they haven’t seen each other in years and Stuart has recently found out that Mel is dying of cancer. With no job, family, or house holding him to Victoria, and an insurance claim that’s not going in his favour, Stu gets into his Datsun and heads to Toronto.

Stu is so hapless it’s hard not to feel bad for him but he also comes across as so ineffective that it’s equally hard not to blame him for his own problems. By contrast, Mel is powerful and in charge, even while slowly being defeated by her cancer. When the book switches to Mel’s point of view, just as Stuart shows up at her doorstep, I immediately felt more engaged.

Mel is an enigma – both in Stuart’s life and in the novel. Stuart has powerful memories of camping trips and adventures and wonderful meals. (These are deliciously described. Gaston really excels here and makes you hungry.) Her life after drifting apart from Stuart is vaguely sketched with a couple of failed marriages, some time living in various places across the country, and then a late-in-life reconciliation with her father, Hal.

Hal is also M.H. Dobbs, author of a book called The World (but not the one you’re reading). Hal’s World is about a young professor who buys a box of old letters. Letters dug up on D’Arcy Island.

D’Arcy Island looms large in Victoria lore. Easily spotted off the coast, at the turn of the 20th century, it functioned as a leper colony. More complicated than that though is the fact that all the lepers were Chinese, taken from Victoria’s Chinatown and held on the island against their will. There’s some evidence that suggests some of these men did not even have leprosy when they arrived on the island. They were provided with food and supplies, sporadically, but their lives were grim and difficult. It’s not a shining moment in Canadian history.*
This fictional professor’s efforts to translate these letters and his desire to publish his findings in order to advance his own career raise all kinds of issues of romance, truthfulness, and morality. Stuart begins to read The World as he drives across the country and when he reaches Mel they read it together to Hal, whose mind is steadily being degraded by Alzheimer’s and now lives in a home.
Hal is an interesting character. We learn more about him during Mel’s section. His career as an academic, his relationship with his wife, his twenty plus years spent in Nepal, learning Buddhist practices. We are teased with the idea that in his one novel lies a key to the truth of his life.
The final section of the novel is from Hal’s perspective and this is where Gaston’s skill really shines. Hal’s memory is almost gone and his mind is fading. In short, full paragraphs, Gaston takes us into the mind of an Alzheimer’s patient. There is, of course, confusion, but surprising moments of clarity that Hal cannot express. The section is brief but so well done and gives the novel a terrific ending. (I was reminded of Gaston’s The Good Body, where he used as stream-of-consciousness technique to describe a former athlete’s increasing loss of control over his own body. I think this section in The World is even better.)
I have to say that I normally hate novels within novels and, in general, I wasn’t a big fan of The World within The World. Dobbs’ The World didn’t seem well-written to me and I couldn’t figure the characters out. This is partially because we get only snippets of this book, as the characters choose to read them. But there is one character – Naomi – who is the translator and described as being recently from Mainland China. Yet I didn’t get any sense of that from her voice, even though she’s described as having an accent. There’s none of the formality or tone that marks those who speak English as a foreign language. I wasn’t sure if this was a fault of Gaston’s or was supposed to show us that Dobbs wasn’t a great writer.
In the end though, I greatly enjoyed The World and would count it as my favourite Gaston novel yet. He has a short story collection being released this summer that I also look forward to.
*Chris Yorath wrote an excellent book on D’Arcy Island called A Measure of Value.

Day 26 – 30 Day Dress Challenge 2014

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Please note the tidiness of my deck, including the sparkling sheen on that glass!

Repeat, repeat, repeat. I wore this dress back on Day 7 and here it is again with a different sweater. Earlier in the afternoon it was warm enough to wear on its own but by the time evening rolled around, so had the clouds.

I had one of those crazy productive days that leave you feeling so good. Peter was up and out of the house at 5:30 this morning and I couldn’t get back to sleep so I drank the rest of his coffee and got to work around the house. Doing some deep-cleaning of our deck and the beach in front of our place.

Low tides recently have also meant high tides and our little beach was covered with flotsam and jotsam and some areas had been washed out (like our fire pit). I’m definitely not complaining because I love where we live and we’re so fortunate to be here but I guess beach maintenance is a responsibility I have now!

Parts not hit by high tide had been overcome with weeds so I spend a good while pulling thistles and creeping vines. I don’t know if I watched Jumanji too much as a kid or what but vines that grow along the ground always make me feel like they’re suddenly going to grab my ankles. Just me?

I’ll admit, I was not wearing a dress while I did all this. But by 12:30 I was hot, sweaty, and finished. I took a quick ocean swim and then came the dress and I spent my afternoon making cookies and cupcakes.

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The Dress: Thrifted at a Goodwill in Washington. The sweater was bought a few years ago at The Bay. My bird necklace was bought at a Buffalo Exchange in Los Angeles.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a non-repeat dress. Promise.

Day 25 – 30 Day Dress Challenge 2014

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The Dress: A repeat from Day 12, I’m afraid. I actually put on another dress initially – one I thrifted in town during the winter and wore a few times – and after fussing with the sash on it, asking Peter’s opinion, taking it off and putting it back on, I realized, I just didn’t like it. So I took it off and put it in my to-be-thrifted pile. Life’s too short to wear dresses you don’t like.

This one made a good stand-by.

Day 24 – 30 Day Dress Challenge

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I’m getting down to my last few dresses and most of them are edging into more formal territory so I have to get a bit creative if I’m going to wear them this week.

For reference, this is the actual dress, as worn in last year’s 30 Day Dress Challenge.

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That’s me all dressed up for a fancy dinner out.

The Dress: I love this dress. Peter picked out for me for my birthday a couple of years ago. I love the little sleeves and the lace. But I think it’s a tad bit too short for daily or work wear. Nice dinner out or an evening party or a wedding, sure. But my day-to-day life doesn’t consist of those things.

So what did I do? I added a skirt.

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I think it works. The bottom of the dress is not super full so it tucks in under my green skirt and (hopefully) just looks like a lace top. It had to be a skirt that was high-waisted because the waist on the dress is a little higher and I didn’t want it to show. I don’t love the belt (I’m not sure about the brown and I think the style doesn’t quite match) but it felt necessary in order to cover that transition better. I’m eager to hear others’ opinions – do you think this works or is a skirt over a dress ridiculous?

My dress is from this local store and my skirt was purchased at Winners.

Day 23 – 30 Day Dress Challenge 2014

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It looked like today would be a lot sunnier when I got dressed. Since the sun never appeared, I threw on some tights as well.

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The Dress: This Billabong dress was a gift from a friend last spring. It’s very summery, very beachy. I love the design on it – it’s probably not something I would pick out on my own but that’s the joy of gifts from friends, right?

This was one of the dresses I took to Europe last summer. It was nice and light, washed well, and perfect for 38 degree days in Rome and the Cinque Terre.

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That’s me at The Forum in Rome!

Days 21 & 22 – 30 Day Dress Challenge 2014

I’ll be honest with you. There’s 2 days here but only one dress. Peter and I had a quick weekend in Vancouver and when I got dressed Sunday morning and thought about my day of skytrain and bus and ferry ahead of me…I put on jeans and a tank top.

So let’s see what Day 21 looked like instead.

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Saturday morning ferry ride!

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The Dress: This is one of my favourites currently. I bought this dress last summer in Menaggio, a little town on Lake Como in Italy. We didn’t bring back a lot of souvenirs from our time in Europe, but I knew I wanted to buy a dress in Italy. This one came from a store that was owned by the people who ran the hotel we stayed at. And the restaurant underneath the hotel. They were busy folks. The owner was this big Italian guy and every time I came out of the change room, he rushed to fetch Peter so I could show him what I was wearing.

I love the colour and the light, floaty skirt of this dress and it’s an easy one to dress up or down.

As an apology for a lack of a dress today, please enjoy this picture of a dog looking out my front window.

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I’ll be back tomorrow, properly dressed.

(See what I did there?)

Hope your summer is off to a terrific start!

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Summer Reading List 2014

Happy first day of summer!

As you may recall, I am anti the so-called “beach read”. Life’s too short to read poorly written books.

That said, last summer I attempted to tackle (again) Ulysses by James Joyce and failed (again). Partly because that honking great book was not the right choice to backpack through Europe with. This summer, I’m making more reasonable reading goals which will, hopefully, still include excellent literature.

Here’s my list (in alphabetical order because, again, indecisiveness):

1. Maps & Legends – Michael Chabon

2. Crazy Love by Francis Chan

3. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

4. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

5. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

6. No Relation – Terry Fallis

7. The World – Bill Gaston

8. The Tin Drum – Gunter Grass

9. Alone in the Classroom – Elizabeth Hay

10. A Year of Biblical Womanhood – Rachel Held Evans

11.  Across the River and into the Trees – Ernest Hemingway

12. The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson

13. Perfect by Rachel Joyce

14. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

15. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

16. This Side of Brightness – Collum McCann

17. Transatlantic by Collum McCann

18. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

19.  And No Birds Sang – Farley Mowat

20. The Girl Who was Saturday Night – Heather O’Neill

21. A Tale for the time Being by Ruth Ozeki

22. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

23. House Calls by Float Plane – Alan Swan

24. The Flying Troutmans – Miriam Toews

25.Indian Horse – Richard Wagamese

 

I worked hard to limit this list to 25 titles – 20 fiction, 5 non. In no way do I promise to limit myself only to these 25 books but these are the ones I hope to reach for when I’m deciding what book to read next. I also limited myself to books that I knew I could get a hold of – either ones I’d already picked up somewhere and are sitting on my shelf, or books that are available at my local library.

What’s on your summer reading list? What am I desperately missing from mine?

Day 20 – 30 Day Dress Challenge 2014

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The Dress: This dress reminds me of a painting. I think that’s my favourite thing about it. Also that it’s silk and Calvin Klein but I bought it at a thrift store so I did not pay silk or Calvin Klein prices. This one was found in Victoria when we were there on Spring Break this year. (Yes, I came home from four days away with two dresses. I told you I have a dress problem.)

My cardigan was purchased in Rome at an odd little store where they wouldn’t let me try things on but just told me what would fit me. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I let that happen but I do like the sweater. It’s very soft. I’m wearing my rose glass earrings again. My bracelet is this one, bought on Etsy. My necklace was a birthday gift but I know it was bought locally. My boots are the same ones as always. (I do not have a shoe problem, clearly.)

Happy Weekend!

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